How a Gas Station ..might be.. like the (hypothetical) Third Way Movement
Earlier in the year, I had posted this , which garnered a couple of interesting, albeit wide, responses. Since I am winding down this blog over the next few posts (there now, it’s official!), I thought it would be a good idea to tackle this “once and for all.” Of course, the “once and for all,” isn’t quite that, since the Third Way movement by all reckonings isn’t past the ideation phase of its development, if we can call it that.
So, how exactly is a gas station like the Third Way Movement?
Well, first thing we notice from the picture is that we aren’t looking at a gas station, but at a gas pump. Why is the gas station out of the picture? Well, let’s consider what’s inside of the gas station. Inside of the gas station, there are bathrooms and a lot of overpriced junkfood, along with other overpriced necessities that are cheaper at the grocery store. Looking around at the commodities for sale and their prices, it is clear to anyone that you would never plan a shopping trip to a gas station. Their business is set up on impulse buying – in other words, you buy the candy bar because it was convenient to do so at the same time you bought gas. Or, you bought the soda because you used the rest room and felt like you owed something to the owner of the gas station.
But none of that is necessary. We don’t need to purchase the candy bar, because we can do all of our business with the gas station right at the pump. Just swipe the debit or credit card, pump the gas, and then drive down to the grocery store or rest area to take care of our other business. Not the most convenient policy, to be sure, but certainly more cost-effective.
And of course, we accept that we must do business with the gas station, if only because we need at least one (and possibly two, if we count the free service) of their commodities. And there things stand, with our ambivalent attitude towards the gas station, and the gas stations ambivalent attitude towards the consumer. At least, things will stand that way for a few generations, until a new technology comes along (?) bringing a new technological era along with a new set of ambivalent relationships. 🙂
Relating this back to the hypothetical Third Way Movement .. People in this movement feel called to stay within the Episcopal Church, waiting for the time when the current liberal administration to crumble under the weight of its own ineptitude. At that point, “reform” is simply a matter of housecleaning.
In the meantime, they are obligated to “pay dues” to TEC, just as everyone who is a part of an organization is obliged to pay dues. But being the roistering lot they are, they also need to differentiate themselves from the corruption of TEC.
Some well-meaning conservatives suggest that not paying the tithe assessed by the liberal diocese and / or the national church, is the means to differentiate. I think this is a Pyrrhic Victory at best, victimizing the faithful priest tending to his flock, and potentially the parish’s other big asset – the building. Also, during said differentiation, one is required to “dialogue” (sic) with committees loaded with liberals, who were finished with the conversation long before the time of “dialogue.”
I am going to go out on a limb here with my conservative brothers and sisters, and suggest that if one wants differentiation, perhaps it is best to stop pretending to “dialogue.” And to do that, one would need to pay their (monetary) dues to their liberal diocese and the national church. Do it, so you don’t have to talk to them. Do it, so you don’t have to waste perfectly good weekends, entertaining their ideas about how to improve your parish. Just do it.
Undoubtably, there will be those who cannot conscience paying money to the liberal diocese. My suggestion to them is that if they do not want to pay what is assessed of them, they should wield their differentiation in a manner that hurts the liberals in their diocese, but not their conservative rector. Their weapon – their true weapon – is ASA. They can lower the assessment by lowering that which increases the assessment, removing themselves from Sunday worship at their Episcopal parish, and finding a parish in a safer denomination.
This will put financial strain on the priest or rector. My best advice to him or her is to use the tentmaking model, take up that second career in order to make ends meet.
What about the people who want to differentiate with their money, but don’t want to leave the parish? Well, let’s think about the gas pump again. If we saw the merit in driving a car to work, but wanted to pay less for gas, we don’t have to own our own car – we could carpool to our job. Similarly, if a disgruntled conservative didn’t want to pay to the national church and/or liberals in their diocese, they could avoid Sunday worship, but network with and support the Christians who are called to fully support their conservative parish.
That’s how the Third Way Movement might be like a gas-pump (the meaning behind the turtle picture should fall out from this).
Undoubtably, some of y’all will disagree, and that’s fine. Again, at this stage, nothing has gotten past the chalkboard anyhow, and the rules of the brainstorming session dictate that there are no bad ideas. One person I respect a lot pointed out earlier that conservative Episcopalians need to network with one another as opposed to Christians outside of TEC. I think I agree with this in principal, but disagree in terms of practicality, calling for Christians outside of TEC to take the initiative to ‘adopt’ struggling conservatives called to stay within TEC. It is very difficult to foster communities of conservative Christians within a liberal hotbed – much easier outside of the hotbeds.
And oh yeah, it has to be the sole initiative of laypeople. The deniability provision for conservative clergy must not only be plausible; it must be actual.